Tech Talent Charter - what’s working for companies trying to improve diversity and inclusion?

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez February 22, 2022
The Tech Talent Charter’s annual Diversity in Tech report curates D&I data from 580 organizations in the UK and includes some useful qualitative data on what’s working for D&I strategies.

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(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay )

The Tech Talent Charter (TTC), an industry collective that has been supported by the UK Digital Strategy, has this week released its annual Diversity in Tech report, which collects diversity and inclusion (D&I) data from 580 organizations. 

Some of the organizations involved include the Bank of England, the BBC, Deloitte, Lloyds Banking Group, Microsoft, PwC, Shell and Unilever. 

Part of the report's ambition is to track progress across TTC's signatories, regarding their D&I strategies. Providing data annually to TTC and benchmarking against others in the industry can be a useful lever to keep organizations focused. 

However, what's perhaps more interesting is that TTC also collects qualitative data from the organizations involved, which provides insight into what's proving to be the most impactful when thinking about D&I success. 

There's a number of underlying labor market trends that play into why this data is particularly useful at this moment in time. For instance, competition for top tech talent is incredibly fierce at the moment, which is being worsened by ‘The Great Resignation' as employees reconsider their priorities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And as TTC notes: 

It's not just about recruitment. Companies can't just hire their way out of the situation; even as they onboard new talent into their workforce, attrition amongst existing employees may nullify those gains. When it comes to diversity, retention and development are key considerations. 

Companies must help their employees fine-tune the skills necessary to deliver high value in an increasingly tech-centric environment. They must also get better at retaining and growing diverse representation in leadership positions, while supporting and highlighting role models to attract talent.

So whilst challenges remain, it's also worth reiterating why this is important for organizations to get right (beyond it being the responsible thing to do). Time and time again it has been proven that organizations that employ a diverse set of talent are typically more successful. 

For example, the World Economic Forum has repeatedly highlighted that effective D&I organizations spur innovation, draw in skillsets from a more extensive talent pool, and make a business more competitive and ultimately profitable. Equally, McKinsey's ‘Diversity wins' report (2020) stats that ‘diverse companies are more likely to financially outperform their peers.'

In other words, getting this right is just good business and should be front of mind for organizations that want to succeed. 

Key findings

Before we dive into the qualitative data that I think is actually more useful, let's take a quick look at TTC's benchmarking results. As noted above, TTC surveyed 580 organizations, which represents approximately 196,197 employee roles (approximately 15-16% of the UK tech workforce). 

The data covers companies of all sizes and represents organizations from every region of the UK. 

Looking at gender, TTC has seen a slight uptick from last year's report, with the number of reported roles held by women increasing from 25% to 27%. Gender minority representation is approximately 6% higher amongst TTC signatories than the corresponding stat for the tech workforce in the UK (21%), according to the Office for National Statistics. As noted above, companies participating in this data programme are more likely to be focused on D&I than the broader economy. 

This was also the first time that TTC made it mandatory that organizations report data on ethnicity. Representation of ethnic minorities amongst TTC signatory organizations was 20% - again, higher than the UK tech workforce average (16%). 

The report states: 

Of the Signatories who were able to report disaggregated ethnicity data, Asian workers make up 12% of the TTC Signatory workforce compared to the Asian tech workforce UK average of 9% (with Asians representing 4% of the overall UK workforce). 

Black workers comprise 3% of the TTC workforce, a slightly larger share than the Black tech workforce UK average of 2%, but in line with the overall Black UK workforce (3%). Our Signatory workforce is 65% White; while White workers make up 84% of the UK tech workforce and 88% of the overall UK workforce. Other ethnicities and multi-ethnic individuals constitute 5% of the TTC workforce.

TTC also provides a number of benchmarking charts that are worth taking a look at, as they highlight gender and ethnic diversity of tech roles by industry, region, and team size. 

Helpful insights

What's particularly useful about TTC's report is the qualitative data that it also collects. Companies making progress on D&I are experimenting and testing different approaches, allowing TTC to report back on successful actions in the field. 

The report states that whilst there is no "silver magic bullet", common threads do exist. It adds: 

There are many ways to take action that do not call for direct financial investment; but all require intention and an ongoing commitment.

Across all signatories, looking at both gender and ethnic diversity, companies said that these were the most impactful interventions (in descending order: 

  1. Building awareness

  2. Investment in D&I data systems

  3. Diversity focused attraction channels

  4. Gathering employee feedback/measuring inclusion

  5. Communicating commitment to D&I and that D&I is business critical

  6. D&I training 

  7. Employee Resource Groups

  8. Job advertisements (including gender decoding tools, focusing on soft skills, reducing experience requirements)

  9. D&I targets and measurement; managers/leaders held accountable for actions/progress

  10. Recruitment practices 

  11. Auditing processes and systems to mitigate bias

  12. Leveraging D&I partnerships

  13. Anonymised CVs

  14. Focus on culture of flexibility

  15. A working group/diversity forum

  16. Flexibility upfront in hiring including remote working

  17. Investment in and expansion of I&D team

  18. Accessibility focus/reasonable adjustments

  19. Diversity in senior positions

  20. Project management of D&I strategy

TTC also put together two separate lists that focus on impactful interventions specifically for gender diversity and ethnic diversity separately, where there was some variation. But what's particularly interesting about the lists is that whilst areas such as brand awareness and ERGs are clearly impactful, it's clear that putting the work into data collection and systems auditing are just as critical.

Too often you see organizations saying that they're focused on D&I with huge marketing efforts (still a good thing!), but what's also needed is a systemic approach to diversity inclusion, correcting systems that have a history of repeating unconscious bias when it comes to talent acquisition and retention . 

TTC has a playbook on evidence based actions that can be taken to make improvements in these areas and is worth checking out. 

Commenting on the findings, Debbie Forster, MBA, CEO and Co-Founder of the Tech Talent Charter, said: 

We've been heartened to see diversity remaining a priority for so many companies through the pandemic, which is reflected by our significant growth, but 2022 will be a pivotal year as new working patterns become more normalized. Inclusion must be baked in now, or the tech sector risks cementing inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

Sharing valuable insights on winning D&I strategies means that companies across the sector can learn best practices and more quickly bring about change for the greater good of the sector and the wider UK population. 

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